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Wine & Dine: India's Growing Thirst For Grape Liquor Excessive exposure to new cultures, western concepts, overseas education, and rapidly changing demography are driving wine consumption in the country

By Priyadarshini Patwa

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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The tourism business structure has transformed over the years. We are no more just about scotch, vodka, and beer. The tastes have changed and we're all drinking a lot more wine, and from a pleasing array of countries. This is the reason why the wine sector in India is a market to watch in the medium to longer term. Excessive exposure to new cultures, western concepts, overseas education, and rapidly changing demography are driving wine consumption in the country.

India with a young population, changing trends and an understanding of status choice are becoming parallels to most of the Asian markets where there are an acceptance and growing preference for wine especially in the upper and middle classes. Yes, times have changed and so has the drink choices. There was a time when wine wasn't part of our culture, but today it is part of all the celebrations and gets together.

According to Wine Insider 207 report the consumption in recent years then it has increased tremendously since the year 2017 especially since the sales of wine have grown faster than spirits and beer in the country. The hospitality sector has quickly picked up the wine trends in India and it is booming since; we hold a bright future in both producing and consuming wines.

The growing trend of wine is directly connected with the tourism industry. But how has the industry changed and what is the hospitality sector doing? To know about the same Entrepreneur India spoke to Jayant Singh, Managing Partner of Treehouse Hotels.

The Vegan Wine & Millenials:

Jumping directly to the point of an increasing demand of wine Singh said, "In the tourism industry, from the past couple of years there's an interesting and counterintuitive trend. More and more industry leaders around the world are taking care of the wine, the category is important to us and we invest time and effort while selecting wines for our hotels."

"Today in our industry we are taking the initiative to understand the different varieties, countries of origin, regions. There's another trend that's revolving in the market is for drinkers who are vegans, with the social trends and the millennial preference consumers are becoming aware of the vegan wine and a lot of vegan-only and vegan-friendly wines have been introduced in the sector," he added.

It's not just the lifestyle preference that is pushing people towards wine but also the one set of generations. Singh points out that another thing, which has changed the growing wine trends in the hospitality sector, is the growing travel plans of millennials. From different parts of the world, the travel plans for a young crowd have certainly increased and with this increase in travel trends, the beverage consumption has changed tremendously.

The Taste, Preference & Demand:

Wine is something that has come from different countries and people have preferred the taste, which is the most important thing when it comes to the taste of beverages, as alcohol preferences are something, which is very personal and can't be forced upon. And it is India's young people who are showing an interest in wine. As per Euromonitor, more than 19 million new consumers entering the legal drinking age every year, wine has grown in recent years by 16 percent per annum, with sales of 32 million liters in 2016.

Wine & Hospitality Collaborations:

Talking about the world of hospitality you will notice how wines are making their way into functions, events, and marriages, and are a particularly popular gift for status-conscious Indian consumers. As wine is seen as a sophisticated and stylish drink compared to whisky, scotch, and rum it has gained humongous popularity among the population. Another distinguishing feature of the market is that women are the major buyers of wine in the country – primarily as gifts for other women.

Adding some facts from export genius and Indian wine academy, there are more than 300 wine importers in India and the number is growing every year. India imported approximately 475,000 cases of wine in the Indian financial year (April 2016–March 2017). While there is a strong market for bottles priced below A$36, the high duties and taxes on imported wine mean importers are only prepared to pay a low FOB price – around A$2 to A$3.50 FOB per bottle.

Make in India and Transformations:

What interesting about India is how we have started our domestic industry too. You have Sula Vineyards, Indage and Grover Vineyards among the top Indian vineyards and wineries. Collectively, they have 90 percent of the market and are perceived as "better value for money'.

"I have seen tremendous growth of the Indian wine market over the last decade. Not just in volumes but also in varieties, quality and customer base, people have a growing preference now for popular varietals like Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz, we are now seeing grapes like Viognier, Riesling, Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Nero d'Avola and more," said Singh.

It's not just the taste but even the making techniques of wine have evolved, allowing winemakers to make both approachable wine for newbies and complex ones for the more experienced drinker.

"Another wine trend that has grown in this year is the sparkling wine trend, which has grown across categories from method champenoise style to prosecco stypes and simple frizzante," he said.

Wine & Dine:

The tourism industry has also seen a change in how people wine and dine; Indians have always paired their food with lager most of the time. With the involvement of the gastronomy experts, influencers and up-market restaurants across the country have begun to change perceptions about the suitability of Indian cuisine with wine. However, with a vast range of varieties and diversity of the cuisine in India, it gets a little complex because there isn't a single dish in the country that completely summarises wine pairing. There is an exhaustive list of wines that will go beautifully with Indian food, one's tryst with wine needs to be continuous and experimental and one should allow their palate to guide them with the taste of wine.

"The wine industry in India is in the developing stage and it requires people with commitment and passion to take it to the next level. It needs time to get better, for the grapes to mature with time and get the right flavours tourism industry needs to go a little slow. We have so many homegrown winemakers in India; we should focus on developing them and provide them with the best facilities of wineries and not factories. We also need consistency; the storage conditions need to improve the distributors. If these things are taken care of then the quality of the wines in terms of range will not be limited," Singh points out.

Wine Tourism & It's Potential:

To conclude, wine tourism is a massive business not only for the wineries but also for the region as a whole. People are understanding the concept of wine tourism but at the same time for the industry, it is very important to have repeat visitors so that we can gain customer loyalty and help in providing more and better experiences.

"If we see overall then in recent years, wine tourism has grown leaps and bounds and is continuing to grow. Researches have shown that it is clear that the success of a wine region is due, at least in part, to purposeful event planning at the winery in terms of scheduling both fun and educational activities, as well as the attractiveness of the region as a whole," said Singh.

He also explains how wineries and wine trails should not isolate themselves when planning their marketing strategies, but would likely benefit from collaboration with other industries that are present in the region (i.e. recreational tourism, music events, etc.) to help further encourage repeat tourism to the area for optimal social and economic impact [academy of wine].

Priyadarshini Patwa

Former Features Editor, Entrepreneur India

Priyadarshini Patwa is the Former Features Editors of Entrepreneur India and hosted an Instagram show every Friday named ‘Lighten Up’, about people from different walks of life and talk about their work and beyond. She handled the lifestyle, features, technology, entertainment segments and was also responsible for the Digital Covers. Previously she has worked with MensXP, a Times of India entity and Deccan Chronicle. 


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